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2016-2017 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Dean: Hiskes

Associate Dean: Schendel



The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies provides Grand Valley and the community with experiences, expertise, and programming that deepens our understanding of the world around us. The College does this through its innovative curriculum and by providing students with high impact learning experiences like service learning projects, study abroad opportunities, internships, living and learning communities, and intensive writing and research opportunities. The mission of the Brooks College is: cultivating engaged global citizens through innovative interdisciplinary programs and diverse community partnerships

Program Information

The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies challenges students to tackle the important issues of the day by integrating the perspectives, knowledge, and methodologies of multiple fields of study. The College offers majors in Chinese studies, liberal studies, religious studies, and women, gender and sexuality studies; and minors in African/African American studies, East Asian studies, environmental studies, human rights, Latin American and Latino/a studies, Middle East studies, religious studies, and women, gender and sexuality studies. The College also offers certificate programs in LGBTQ Studies, Sustainable Food Systems, Latino/a Studies, and Intercultural Training. Most of these academic programs have social justice components to them.

The centers, initiatives, service units, and university-wide programs in Brooks College provide the expertise of highly qualified faculty and staff to Grand Valley and the West Michigan communities, helping people to become more skilled and experienced with internationalism, intercultural communication, sustainability, local history, social justice, and the goals of a liberal education.

What is interdisciplinarity? Interdisciplinarity is the integration of knowledge and methodologies from across the university to better understand the world around us. The most complex issues of the world, environmental stewardship, human rights, poverty, and the migration of people, to name a few, can only be addressed effectively if we pose questions, test hypotheses, and apply knowledge from different perspectives. In an interdisciplinary program, the focus is on improving critical thinking skills by prompting students to integrate knowledge from among the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, performing arts, and the professional programs. The interdisciplinary courses and programs in Brooks College are taught by faculty whose own research is interdisciplinary as well as by teams of faculty from across the disciplines who are skilled at helping students see different fields of study as parts of a whole. The goals of our classes and programs are to help students integrate perspectives from a variety of disciplines in order to problem-solve in a global context, take action in their communities, and connect learning to their future professions.

Center for Adult and Continuing Studies

The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies provides programs and services that link the needs of lifelong learners with the resources of the university. The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies coordinates academic programs and services at regional sites and locations throughout Michigan, as well as through professional development and community engagement opportunities. Information regarding professional development and Grand Forum can be found in the Community Resources section of the catalog. Information regarding nontraditional student assistance, programs and locations, can be found in the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies section of the catalog.

Frederik Meijer Honors College

The Frederik Meijer Honors College provides academically talented students from all majors with the opportunity to work with excellent teaching faculty in a small college environment. The mission of the honors college is to provide a challenging interdisciplinary liberal education and a living/learning environment that prepares students to be intellectually curious, lifelong learners and leaders in their communities and a changing world. Additional honors college information can be found in the honors college section of the catalog. Honors courses are team taught, blocked sequentially, and offer an interdisciplinary approach to general education.

Barbara and Stuart Padnos International Center

The Padnos International Center (PIC) serves as the university clearinghouse for study abroad opportunities for students from all academic programs. Students can choose to take faculty-led classes abroad, spend a semester abroad or intern at an international site. In addition, grants are available for faculty and staff to travel abroad to aid in the internationalization of GVSU and its curriculum. PIC hosts international scholars as well as incoming international students.

Office of Integrative Learning and Advising

Integrative Learning and Advising offers a variety of programs and resources to fully engage students in their lifelong educational journeys and assist them in making connections between school, work, and other spheres of their everyday lives.

Some of the hallmark programs of the Office of Integrative Learning and Advising are:

  • Brooks College Advising Support Services coordinates and assists in providing services and resources supporting academic advising for students majoring or minoring in Brooks College academic programs.
  • Brooks Professional Series offers students the opportunity to connect their academic program to professional skills and opportunities. Students will learn how to articulate their majors, develop a professional "brand," and make connections through networking events.

Office of Sustainability Practices

The Office of Sustainability Practices provides the necessary skills, analytical tools, and resources to address global, national, regional, and local sustainability issues. Sustainability relates to the preservation of society for future generations by addressing the three pronged approach of social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. Sustainability Practices connects faculty, students, and community stakeholders to address campus needs as well as community needs. The initiative provides support and input for course development, campus programming, internships, and project activities that promote awareness about sustainable development and the application for sustainable best practices.

Global Institute for Big History

The Global Institute for Big History (GIBH), located at 148 LMH, is the headquarters for the International Big History Association (IBHA). Big history emerged as a field in the late 1980s and is related to but different from world history. The IBHA has a formal definition of the field: "Big History seeks to understand the integrated history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity, using the best available empirical evidence and scholarly methods". Visit Big history is currently taught at hundreds of universities and high schools around the world. The GIBH is responsible for the coordination of all Association endeavors - membership, conference organization, grant writing, research and education - and functions as a clearing house and organizational mechanism for the IBHA's many activities.

Office Coordinator for the GIBH is Ms. Donna Tew. For more information contact the office at (616) 331-8035, or IBHA Treasurer Professor Craig Benjamin can be reached at

Institute for Integrative Teaching and Learning

The Institute for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (IITL) was created in 2012. Housed in Brooks College, IITL is part of an intentional effort by GVSU to create and facilitate cultural awareness and sensitivity among the residents of West Michigan. Both real and perceived inequality and lack of appreciation for diversity are obstacles to the progress of West Michigan residents on personal, professional, and community levels. IITL allows for GVSU to work with community affiliates to become even stronger stakeholders in making West Michigan more inclusive and socially just.

Kutsche Office of Local History

The Kutsche Office of Local History fosters dialogue, understanding, and empowerment through local history. Guided by its mission, "giving voice to diverse communities through history," the Kutsche Office leads interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives, places undergraduate and graduate student interns in opportunities both on and off campus, supports collaborative grant writing and training, and teaches oral history methods, digital and physical preservation techniques, and seminars focused on topics related to its mission both on and off campus. Some of our current programs include the annual Local History Roundtable, Youth Leadership Initiative, and "Gi-gikinomaage-min: Defend Our History, Unlock Your Spirit" (a project documenting the urban Native American experience in West Michigan). Information about our programs and upcoming events can be found on the Kutsche Office website,

Sustainable Agriculture Project

The Sustainable Agriculture Project is a collaborative Brooks College initiative involving students, faculty, administration, facilities, and the Office of Sustainability Practices. It seeks to create a challenging learning and research environment by fostering sustainable farming and agriculture best practices that promote environmental stewardship, food literacy, and food justice, both on campus and in the community. The farm strives to implement intensive agricultural practices that are ecologically durable, socially responsible, and economically viable through the sale of produce.

Lake Michigan Writing Project

The Lake Michigan Writing Project (LMWP) is an organization of, by, and for teachers of writing at all grade levels and in all disciplines, dedicated to improving the teaching and uses of writing through a variety of programs.

Academic Units

Liberal Studies

The Liberal Studies Department at Grand Valley State University provides students with the opportunity to design programs that suit their specific interests, talents, and career aspirations utilizing courses throughout the university. The program begins with a core of required courses. Then, with the help of a faculty advisor, students develop a major area of study based on a specific theme, issue, problem, or career interest. Students interested in exploring the liberal studies option might begin by taking one of the core courses in conjunction with the Grand Valley State University general education requirement or one of the integrative or interdisciplinary electives. Students may also wish to write or make an appointment with any one of the members of the liberal studies committee. The Liberal Studies Department also offers the Intercultural Training Certificate program, which gives students skills to interact effectively with diverse peoples.

Religious Studies

Housed within the department of Liberal Studies, religious studies offers both a major and a minor. The religious studies major provides core courses along with flexibility. Students have the option of focusing on particular religious traditions through electives in a range of global traditions and disciplinary perspectives. Students are encouraged to work closely with their advisor to determine the electives portion of the major. Close collaboration with faculty in the program through advising, student-centered coursework and independent study opportunities is an important part of the religious studies major. A religious studies major is a good foundation for careers such as in law, business, journalism, public policy, international development, and humanitarian services. Understanding religious issues enhances one's preparation for careers in such fields as criminal justice, international relations, education and government.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

The women, gender, and sexuality studies (WGS) department at Grand Valley State University offers an interdisciplinary major and minor based on the study of women, gender, and sexuality, as well as a minor in LGBTQ studies. WGS has close relationships with the Liberal Studies Department and the African/African American, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Latino/a, and East Asian programs. The WGS department works closely with GVSU's Women's Center, Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, and Office of Multicultural Affairs to cosponsor a variety of speakers, events, and internships. For students selecting the major or minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies, there are more than 30 courses that fulfill the required 21 hours. More than 40 faculty members across the campus support WGS through teaching, research, and service. The department offers a major and minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies, as well as a minor in LGBTQ studies.

Areas Studies

Area studies focus on the interdisciplinary study of the culture and issues of a particular world region. The unit offers the following programs:

  • African/African American studies (minor)
  • Middle East studies (minor)
  • Latin American and Latino/a studies (minor) and a Latino/a Studies certificate
  • East Asian studies (minor)
  • Chinese studies (major)

Environmental Studies

The environmental studies program offers a minor that draws ideas and information from a wide array of fields such as anthropology, public policy, political science, economics, geography, geology, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology, engineering, health science, and chemistry.

The environmental studies minor is designed to provide a broad interdisciplinary understanding of environmental issues for students in any major. Courses in the program will prepare students to develop effective, practical ways to address sustainability and environmental concerns. The program also offers a Sustainable Food Systems certificate that focuses more specifically on global agriculture, food distribution, the relationship of food and culture, and food justice.

Student Services and Campus-wide Programs

Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors

The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors provides all university writers with the resources and services they need to meet their writing goals. Students, faculty, and staff can receive feedback on any writing project, at any stage of the writing process. The center's well-trained peer consultants can help brainstorm ideas, organize content, integrate research, and/or polish a draft. The goal of these writing consultations is to help writers help themselves--not just with that single piece of writing, but also to become better writers overall. Information regarding writing center services can be found in the Undergraduate Information section of the catalog or online at

Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships

The Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships, located in 230 Mary Idema Pew Library and Information Commons, assists Grand Valley students who show extraordinary potential in disciplines all across campus in preparing and applying for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships including the Boren, Fulbright, Gates Cambridge, Gilman, Goldwater, Marshall, Rhodes, Truman, Udall, and more. The staff matches opportunities with students' strengths, interests, and ambitions; helps students design a plan to attain their goals; and provides support throughout the application process. To learn more, visit

Supplemental Writing Skills Program

The Supplemental Writing Skills (SWS) Program is a pedagogical component of the GVSU general-education requirements. SWS courses are writing-intensive, meaning that writing quality is a major component of both the classroom requirement as well as the grade. GVSU requires that students complete two SWS courses to graduate. Specific courses are listed as SWS. Additional information regarding SWS requirements can be found under Academic Policies and Regulations.

Community Reading Project

The community reading project is a campus wide and community initiative designed to form reading communities that focus on a single, annual reading. Community groups, classes, faculty, and alumni are invited to join the groups.

Since its inception in 2005, the Community Reading Project carries on the tradition of providing the GVSU and surrounding community with the opportunity to engage in reading and discussing a selected text. Special events related to the topics and themes addressed in the CRP book selection are offered throughout the academic calendar, which culminates near the end of the winter semester, when the CRP book selection author or another distinguished lecturer is brought to campus to speak.

Awards, Scholarships, and Scholarship Events

Arend D. and Nancy Lubbers Honors College Scholarship

Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship

CEA Scholarship (Cultural Experiences Abroad)

Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project Internship Fund

Empowering Haiti Through Education Scholarship

Grand Forum Scholarship for Continuing Education

GVSU LGBT Scholarship Fund

Jean Enright Scholarship (Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Mark A. Elizabeth C. Murray Study Abroad Scholarship

Nichols Sustainability Scholarship

Peace and Justice Advocacy Award

West Shore Aware LGBT Scholarship Fund

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistants work with Brooks College faculty and staff. Qualified candidates are selected on the basis of aptitude, interest, and background. Brooks College offers graduate assistantships in the following:

Adult and continuing studies

General education

Integrative learning and advising

Padnos International Center

Sustainability practices

Writing Center

Advisory Boards

Latin American and Latino/a Studies

Office of Sustainability Practices

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Kutsche Office of Local History

Community Resources

Grand Forum

Professional Development

Professional Development Partnership Program (for education and social work professionals)

Office of Sustainability Practices

Refer to the Community Resources section of the catalog for more information.

Program Descriptions

If you are in need of assistance please submit any questions or comments.